Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Gyoza

Quasi-confession time: I had some behavioral issues in my formative years. More than most kids. Lots of fights at school and crap like that. One time, in fifth grade, I (rightfully so) got slugged square in the jaw and had a permanent tooth busted. Got it fixed at the dentist and was told no solid food for at least a week. Well, then, applesauce, Carnation instant breakfast, Jello, and milkshake time then, right? Wrong. My folks got me...baby food. And rightfully so. And perhaps still even rightfully so, stretched out a few days past the week we were told - you know, for "nutrition's sake" and "dental structural integrity assurance" and all. Had nothing to do with teaching some young punk a lesson, I'm sure. Nothing at all.

I bring this up in relation to Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Gyoza because when I say I know what baby food tastes like, I know exactly what I'm talking about. I gagged on that stuff almost every day. I'm not sure what was worse, the smell or the taunts of my peers at the cafeteria table. I swore to myself then and there if I ever had kids, I'd never feed them baby food from a jar - and over 20 years and two kiddos of my own later, that is still true.

And while these gyoza weren't quite as bad as those squatty Gerber jars...they were fairly reminiscent. I'm not quite sure what it was. I generally do well with squash overall - spaghetti squash has become a favorite, I have no problems with roasted, either. Maybe it was the smushy texture. Or maybe it was the taste, too - it just seemed extra sweet, somehow. There's some added ginger and honey, which sounded good, but don't poke out flavor-wise nearly as much as the sheer squashiness of it. Maybe it was the particular blend of squash, butternut and kabocha, which to my knowledge, this was my first encounter with it. Good ol' Wikipedia says kabocha are a strong and sweet variety, and unrelatedly, is apparently revered as an aphrodisiac in some pockets of the world. Not that you'd put that in a baby food, but maybe if you want to make...I'm stopping there.

The rest of the gyoza fares only mildly better. For some textural variety, there's some small carrot bits and some edamame mixed in, which seem a somewhat odd choice. As is the whole wheat wrapper, which just adds a somewhat unnecessarily heavy feel to the whole package. Honestly, the whole concoction kinda felt and tasted like some outcome from a TV show like "Chopped" where the ingredients in the basket were whole wheat flour, edamame, and baby food, without much more added. I mean, this would be about the best one could do with such a mix, but that doesn't mean it'd be entirely satisfactory, either.

It's not just me in the household who didn't really like them. Sandy first turned her nose when she opened the package, noting an odd super-squashy scent. When it came time to dine, we both took our first bites with all the faith and good vibes in the world...and kinda scowled. The only way we made it through our plateful was dousing them in some "Red Dragon" to overpower the squash. Our toddler, M, kinda made a face but bravely soldiered through the bare minimum we allowed her. Baby B (almost not a baby any more!) seemed to enjoy them the most, appropriately enough. Then again, she eats anything at this stage. While we're fans of most of TJ's other gyoza offerings, I think we all agree these will not be a repeat purchase. Matching 1.5's.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Gyoza: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. I saw these in the store the other day. even before you review these did not sound appealing. I do wanna try the steamed chicken soup dumplings though.

    1. Lol...yeah...kind of a gamble purchase. But that's what we're here for! Those soup dumplings do sound intriguing too.

    2. The steamed dumplings are delicious!

  2. You must explore kobacha squash. It's the best winter squash of all. Trader Joes has the best price in town!

    1. Definitely. i won't let these forever dissuade me from them.

  3. I didn't like these either. What a waste!

  4. I really wish I'd read this before buying. They are so bad. I think the edamame inside was the worst part of it. They also fell apart while I was trying to cook them. I tried to have them twice and gave up halfway through both times. Blech.